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How to perform ear sampling and undertake microscopy

02 June 2017
5 mins read
Volume 8 · Issue 5


Otitis externa is a common presentation in small animal veterinary practice and the veterinary nurse can play a vital role in managing these cases. Ear sampling techniques are relatively straightforward and together with microscopic examination form two vital investigative processes in which veterinary nurses can become competent.

Otitis externa is a common presentation in small animal veterinary practice (Hill et al, 2006). The veterinary nurse plays a vital role in helping the veterinary surgeon to examine the ear, take samples and perform microscopy. This not only helps the smooth running of a busy veterinary practice, but also ensures prompt and correct treatment for the patient, keeping both patient and owner content. Ear sampling is fairly simple, quick and inexpensive, the equipment needed is readily available, and in-house assessment usually works out cheaper than sending the sample to an external laboratory. Ear sampling should be performed for every patient presenting to the practice with otitis, but it is also essential at each follow-up appointment to ensure treatment is effective. To facilitate sampling and assessment the veterinary nurse can ask the owner to cease any ear treatments 24–48 hours prior to the appointment.

Otitis externa can result from numerous underlying causes, e.g allergy, foreign bodies and ectoparasites to name a few (Miller et al, 2013) and ideally otoscopy should be performed prior to sampling (if the patient permits). This is for several reasons:

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